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Abel Tasman islands off limits to protect seals

December 23rd, 2015
[DOC press release]

Visitors to Abel Tasman National Park are advised that landing on Tonga and Pinnacle Islands is no longer allowed, to protect breeding colonies of New Zealand fur seals.

The two islands have recently been designated as specially protected areas, and public access onto them will not be allowed except by permit. Permits are likely only to be issued for scientific research and monitoring, or iwi cultural purposes.

Tonga Island contains the second biggest fur seal breeding colony in the top of the South Island. Seals also breed on Pinnacle Island.

Mark Townsend, Operations Manager Motueka, reminds the public to stay at least 20 metres from seals throughout the Park at all times.

"Twenty metres is about the same as four double-kayak lengths. Keeping to this distance is important for the wellbeing of seals throughout the year, but the breeding colonies are particularly sensitive to human disturbance."

The breeding season takes place from mid-November to mid-January. During this time, females give birth to their pups and mate again for the following year. Bull seals can be aggressive during the mating season and will chase or attack if disturbed.

Tonga Island is already managed as a predator-free sanctuary and is at the heart of Tonga Island Marine Reserve. Making Tonga and Pinnacle islands specially protected areas may mean they can be used to establish populations of other threatened species in the future.

Mark Townsend adds that Abel Tasman National Park is a wonderful summer playground, and urges users to look after it.

"Fires are only permitted in approved fireplaces in the national park, such as those at Anchorage, Bark Bay and Totaranui. Dogs are not permitted in the National Park, or in Abel Tasman Foreshore Scenic Reserve areas adjoining national park. Dogs are only permitted on foreshore reserve adjoining private land (e.g. at Torrent Bay) as long as they are under control.

"We want visitors to enjoy themselves, take care of the park, and stay safe this summer."


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